|Type||Rapid reaction force|
|Size||18 battalions, including:
*14 battalions with ~1,500 soldiers
*4 battalions with ~2,500 soldiers
(two of which are ready for deployment at all times)
|Part of||European Union Military Staff|
An EU Battlegroup (EUBG) is a military unit adhering to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union (EU). Often based on contributions from a coalition of member states, each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force (1,500 troops) reinforced with combat support elements. The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union.
The Battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, although, as of January 2013 they are yet to see any military action. They are based on existing ad hoc missions that the European Union (EU) has undertaken and has been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe. The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the Battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.
Battlegroups or battle groups as a combined arms military unit, based around an infantry battalion or armoured regiment, are not a new concept. However, the initial ideas for specific EU Battlegroups began at the European Council summit on 10–11 December 1999 in Helsinki. The Council produced the Headline Goal 2003 and specified the need for a rapid response capability that members should provide in small forces at high readiness. The idea was reiterated at a Franco-British summit on 4 February 2003 in Le Touquet which highlighted as a priority the need to improve rapid response capabilities, "including initial deployment of land, sea and air forces within 5–10 days." This was again described as essential in the "Headline Goal 2010".
Operation Artemis in 2003 showed an EU rapid reaction and deployment of forces in a short time scale – with the EU going from Crisis Management Concept to operation launch in just three weeks, then taking a further 20 days for substantial deployment. Its success provided a template for the future rapid response deployments allowing the idea to be considered more practically. The following Franco-British summit in November of that year stated that, building on the experience of the operation, the EU should be able and willing to deploy forces within 15 days in response to a UN request. It called specifically for "Battlegroup sized forces of around 1500 land forces, personnel, offered by a single nation or through a multinational or framework nation force package.
On 10 February 2004, France, Germany and the United Kingdom released a paper outlining the "Battlegroup concept". The document proposed a number of groups based on Artemis that would be autonomous, consisting of 1500 personnel and deployable within 15 days. These would be principally in response to UN requests at short notice and can be rapidly tailored to specific missions. They would concentrate on bridging operations, preparing the group before a larger force relieved them, for example UN or regional peacekeepers under UN mandate. The plan was approved by all groups in 2004 and in November that year the first thirteen Battle Groups were pledged with associated niche capabilities.
The groups are intended to be deployed on the ground within 5–10 days of approval from the Council. It must be sustainable for at least 30 days, which could be extended to 120 days, if resupplied.
The Battle Groups are designed to deal with those tasks faced by the Common Security and Defence Policy, namely the Petersberg tasks (military tasks of a humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking nature).
Planners claim the Battle Groups have enough range to deal with all those tasks, although such tasks ought to be limited in "size and intensity" due to the small nature of the groups. Such missions may include conflict prevention, evacuation, aid deliverance or initial stabilisation. In general these would fall into three categories; brief support of existing troops, rapid deployment preparing the ground for larger forces or small scale rapid response missions.
A Battlegroup is considered to be the smallest self-sufficient military unit that can be deployed and sustained in a theatre of operation. EU Battlegroups are composed of approximately 1500 troops; plus command and support services.
There is no fixed structure, a 'standard' group would include a headquarters company, three infantry companies and corresponding support personnel. Specific units might include mechanised infantry, support groups (e.g. fire or medical support), the combination of which allows independent action by the group on a variety of tasks. The main forces, extra support and "force headquarters" (front line command) are contained within the Battlegroup "package", in addition there is the operation headquarters, located in Europe.
Larger member states will generally contribute their own Battle Groups, while smaller members are expected to create common groups. Each group will have a 'lead nation' or 'framework nation' which will take operational command, based on the model set up during the EU's peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Operation Artemis). Each group will also be associated with a headquarters. Two non-EU NATO countries, Norway and Turkey, participate in a group each.
The initial thirteen Battle Groups were proposed on 22 November 2005. Further groups have joined them since then. The declared groups are as follows:
|Planned battle groups||Framework nation||Other participants*||Size||Year operational|
|Visegrád Battle Group||Poland||Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia||3000||2016|
|Former battle groups||Framework nation||Other participants*||Size||Decommissioning|
|Eurofor||Portugal||Spain, Italy, France||???||2012|
- * EU Battlegroups are not permanent, they are created on an ad hoc basis to fill the roster. Formations are not strict either and can be disbanded or reformulated
There are plans to extend the concept to air and naval forces, although not to the extent of having a single standing force on standby, but scattered forces which could be rapidly assembled.
The following Member States have also offered niche capabilities in support of the EU Battle Groups:
- Cyprus (medical group)
- Lithuania (a water purification unit)
- Greece (the Athens Sealift Co-ordination Centre)
- France (structure of a multinational and deployable Force Headquarters)
Further details on specific contributions
- Sweden and Finland announced the creation of a joint Nordic Battle Group. To make up the required 1500 number, they also urged Norway to contribute in the Battle Group despite the country not being part of the EU. Recently, the number has been raised to 2400 troops with Sweden providing 2000 of these. According to Swedish newspapers the price for the 6 months in 2008 was 1.2 billion Swedish kronor (app. 150,000,000 euros) and the Battle Group was not used.
- Finland is expected to commit troops trained to combat chemical and biological weapons, among other units such as a mortar company.
- Lithuania is expected to offer experts in water purification.
- Greece is pledging troops with maritime transport skills.
- Ireland has offered bomb disposal experts among its contribution.
The Battle Groups project is not to be confused with the projected Helsinki Headline Goal force, which concerns up to 60,000 soldiers, deployable for at least a year, and take one to two months to deploy. The Battle Groups are instead meant for more rapid and shorter deployment in international crises, probably preparing the ground for a larger and more traditional force to replace them in due time.
From 1 January 2005 the Battle Groups reached initial operational capacity: at least one Battle Group was on standby every 6 months. The United Kingdom and France each had an operational Battle Group for the first half of 2005, and Italy for the second half. In the first half of 2006, a Franco-German Battle Group operated, and the Hispano–Italian Amphibious Battle Group. In the second half of that year just one Battle Group operated composed of France, Germany and Belgium.
Full operational capacity was reached on 1 January 2007, meaning the Union could undertake two Battle Group sized operations concurrently, or deploy them simultaneously into the same field. The Battle Groups rotate every 6 months, the roster from 2007 onwards is as follows;
In 2008, the EU Battle Group conducted wargames to protect the first-ever free elections in the imaginary country of Vontinalys.
- Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF)
- European Gendarmerie Force
- European Maritime Force
- European Union Military Staff
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